One of the recurring topics of my workdays is bad nights. People don't get the kind of sleep they would like, they don't get enough sleep, they wake up feeling almost as tired (if not more tired) as when they went to bed.
I am one of those people that has always had trouble falling asleep. I remember roaming my room as a child, and hearing my parents go to bed. It's not that I wasn't tired, I was. It was more that I couldn't seem to turn off the thoughts running through my head.
Now, as an adult fast approaching sixty (Frith! How did that happen?) and far too busy at work, my head is so chock-a-block-full of thoughts and worries that it is an effort to stop the merry-go-round in my brain.
Since I am against sleeping medication (I've seen too many people dependent on that stuff) I've had to experiment with natural remedies.
Alcohol does not work for me. It simply wakes me up. Not a good idea when you want to go to sleep. Sleepy Time Tea: it tastes of grass (the green stuff cows eat) and does not make me sleepy.
Massages: nope. They wake me up. Hot showers - ditto. Sex: pffffffffft.
Right. I promised you three things that DO work though.
At least, they work for me, and perhaps they'll work for you too.
1. Make sure you unwind on time before you attempt to sleep, and try to go to bed at the same time every evening.
So turn off that TV or switch off your laptop, tablet, iPad, mobile at least 30 minutes before you close your eyes. No reading either!! You need to condition your brain; it's time to sleep!
2. When you actually go to bed, make it into a ritual (again, to help your brain to realize it is time to stop running around like a troupe of crazy apes).
Mine is: open the balcony door a crack to let the fresh air in, light some Japanese incense (I never said I am a logical person), set my alarm, prepare my docking station (more about this in #3)turn off the light.
Then: relax your body, starting with your toes. Visualize them getting heavy and sinking into your mattress as if you are lying on a warm sandy beach, and work you way up along your body until you've reached your head. Try to focus on your body and whenever some random thought pops into your head (like: how on earth do I pay this month's sewage bill?), push it away again and watch it float into outer space, or down into the muck, where ever, as long as it doesn't get your attention. This does take some practice, but I promise it becomes easier when you do it more often. On a good night I can actually feel my heart rate slowing down.
3. Put on a CD that is sure to put you to sleep. (AHA! I can see you getting either frustrated or exasperated, or downright angry now. But give me a chance to explain)
This, again, takes some time. But by careful deduction, and trial and error (No, Talking Heads do not work for me!), you will be able to find a track that calms you down.
Now, concentrate on the music. No thinking!!! Just concentrate 100% and let the music take you away.
Have you ever heard of Ane Brun? She's from Norway, and weird and wonderful. Her song 'Worship' is sure to put me to sleep within minutes. I love that song, but I hardly ever get to hear it beyond the first couplet.
It must be the heartbeat-like rhythm. Almost like being in the womb.
Anyway. It beats pills. And no side-effects!